After yesterday’s report that the servers of smart home company Insteon had mysteriously booted overnight, there is good news: Insteon is back and has been brought back to life by its customers. This entry appeared on the Insteon blog today, posted by the company’s new CEO, Ken Fairbanks:
We are a small group of passionate Insteon users who have successfully purchased Insteon. Like many of you, our homes are powered by Insteon’s amazing dual-mesh technology and highly configurable products.
Insteon’s servers went offline last April when SmartLabs, the company that owned the smart lighting system, ran into “financial trouble.” A financial services company had been appointed to sell its assets, but this “group of passionate users” intervened and took it over.
The group says it plans to “responsibly rebuild the Insteon business”. What exactly that means is unclear and it is unknown whether subscription fees are required to keep the servers running. That’s what happened when smarthome platform Wink ran into financial trouble a few years ago and started charging for services that used to be free.
Fairbanks further explains that getting the hubs back online was the number one priority to prevent loss of customers. They were able to reactivate the service before accessing the site or ways to interact with users, hence the somewhat disturbing stealth move. “Every day, more customers were giving up hope, so it was critical to recover that as soon as possible,” Fairbanks wrote. “We are aware that not all features are back online, but we are actively working on it. We hope you understand this urgency and appreciate your patience.”
This is all great news for owners of Insteon devices, including smart switches, plugs and other lighting products. The devices hadn’t stopped working locally, but had lost their cloud connection through the hub, meaning there was no way they could be programmed with the app or controlled remotely.
But it’s not a great sign for the smart home in general. No one buying a smart light switch wants to worry about whether one day they will have to buy the company just to keep the lights on.
Connected home manufacturers need to develop products and services with longevity in mind and have an actionable plan for what happens if they do have to turn off the lights. Not including these two strategies in a smart device business plan should be a big red flag for customers and investors.